Island View

“Island View” evokes images of tropical sand beneath my toes, a slight warm breeze blowing off pristine turquoise water, rustling the palm leaves above me. It´s odd, actually, as I’ve lived on the island of Magerøya, Norway´s 11th largest island for 9 years. And we’ve recently moved to the tiny island of Tromsø (approx. 10 km long from north to south). But I still think tropical, not arctic.

Tromsø Island, 10 km in length.

Tromsø Island is connected to the main land by the Tromsø Bridge and the Tromsøysund tunnel. The Sandnessund Brigde connects it to Kvaløya, the island located in the backdrop of the photo.

For this lovely bird´s eye view, I recommend taking the cable car/fjellheisen, located on the mainland, Tromsdalen.

The cable car ride is quick, and the views spectacular. (There is also a trail for trekking up the mountain…. stay tuned for a future post!)

The city of Tromsø includes Tromsdalen, Tromsø Island, and the area closest to the bridge on Kvaløya. The population is around 72,000, making it Norway´s 9th largest city. It´s a beautiful area I’m looking foward to exploring.

My current island view: A cool breeze blows off the water, turquoise water highlights the coastline, and the wind rustles the carpet of moss, wild blueberries and lingonberries. Arctic, not tropic.

Ancient Messengers

It’s not surprising ancient myths tell of cormorants bearing mysterious messages.  With silky black wings glistening in the sunshine; long, lean necks raised towards the sky; they exude an air of royalty and otherworldliness.  One’s fantasy begins to weave tales.

img_7214
Kongsfjord Gjesthus, Finnmark, Norway (Cormorant – Reflections)

Some believe if a cormorant visits your home, it’s carrying with it a message from a loved one that has already passed to the world beyond.

img_7216

In the Norwegian folktale, The Cormorants of Utrøst, a fishermen spies three of these creatures in the eye of a storm, and soon after finds safety on a mysterious island called Utrøst.

 

What tales will the cormorants tell this year?

IMG_7234
Waiting for the messengers

We’re waiting.

 

The day the Puffins Arrive! 500,000 pairs of them

Sometimes we are fortunate to be at the right place at the right time.  This past Sunday my family, along with around 90 other lucky souls, experienced an amazing phenomenon.  Each year, on April 14th, 500,000 pairs of puffins-lunderfugl, return to Gjesværstappan to lay their eggs.  That boggles my mind… twentyfour hours prior, a million birds were on their way to a remote spot in the North Cape of Norway!

057

Gjesvæarstappan is a group of  islands and a nature reserve for millions of arctic seabirds that lay their eggs in the steep rocky cliffs.  Bird safaris are offered from May to August.

035

Our boat was called the Lundekongen or Puffen King, and as you can see, we could not have asked for better weather.  Perfect for a landlubber like myself.

036

The Children’s Trekking Association, part of the Norwegian Trekking Association, organized the outing and before we set sail, we had a visit from a special puffin that shared some facts about these beautiful birds.

041

042

We learned that each pair lays just one egg which is placed in a hole up to a meter long.  Their sharp beaks are used to dig the deep holes.  They can dive up to 40 meters to catch fish in the ocean waters and a puffin can live to be 30 years old.  Their nickname is the sea parrot, because of their colorful beaks.

And then we were off to greet the puffins on their arrival day.

058

068

And they were there to be greeted!

060

078

They filled the waters and the sky.

077

086

105

104103

122

Next year I will be bringing a better camera lens to get some close ups.  This one will have to do for now.

244

248

Oscar Danielson – A Delightful Concert in the North Cape

If you’re planning a trip to the North Cape it’s worth checking out the local restaurants, pubs and cafes to see if live entertainment is on the agenda.  The Corner Restaurant, Nøden Pub, Z dance club, and Perleporten Kulturhus feature local artists as well other Norwegian and international musicians.  The annual The North Cape Festival in the middle of June and Nordkapp Film Festival in September also provide opportunities to experience concerts at 71 degrees north of the Equator.

Just as the North Cape draws 300,000 tourists each year, it also is visited by talented artists.  This past week I had the privilege of attending Oscar Danielson‘s intimate concert at Perleporten Kulturhus.

Oscar Danielson

Oscar won the 2012 Swedish Grammy for “Best Children’s Album” and his latest cd, Stockholm i mitt hjarta (Stockholm in My Heart) has received rave reviews.

Oscar Danielson Albums
Det koster på å være et barn – Won Children’s Album (That’s Oscar when he was a boy :-))

Oscar says he likes to write about kids and women and his beautiful lyrics tell nostalgic tales of childhood games, first crushes and adolescent escapades.  His songs about parenthood open up a well of emotions in this mommy of three kids.  I’m in awe of how a song can simultaneously make my heart ache, my eyes leak, and put a smile on my face.  He truly is a gifted storyteller.

When I spoke with Oscar after the show he said he enjoys concerts because he can become a part of people’s lives:  To strike a chord in their lives – touch them.”  He succeeded last Wednesday night, bringing his audience to tears, laughter and reflection over life’s joys, sorrows and challenges.

Concert Oscar Danielson Perleporten kulturhus
Oscar Danielson in concert at Perleporten Kulturhus

Oscar’s life, from childhood to present day, inspires the words he writes.  He’s married to his high school sweetheart,  (also a name of one of his songs).  Grete and Oscar have been together since they were 17 years old and twenty four years later, they have three children – 15, 12 and 5 years old.

He’s also published three novels, two of which revolve around this grandmother and her friend living in a small Swedish town.

His future plans are to continue doing what he’s done for the past twenty years  – playing the guitar, singing and writing about kids and women.  And I, for one, am looking forward to more songs that stir the soul and put a smile on my face.

Oscar Danielson, Perleporten Kulturhus

Check out Those Reindeer Racks!

If you’ve followed this blog for awhile, then you know I’m a big fan of reindeer and I can teach you three ways to say reindeer poop as well as many other exciting reindeer facts.

A couple of days ago we had some visitors in our yard and all I can say is “Check out those RACKS!”  Amazing!

(I have to throw just one reindeer fact into this post… Did you know that reindeer antlers can grow up to three centimeters a day – making antlers the fastest growing bone in the world.  Umm.. yeah – AMAZING!)

Childhood Friends on an Expedition of a Lifetime: 2,500 Kilometer Ski Trip!

Some days are worth remembering, reflecting over, and sharing with others.  For me, May 20, 2012, is one of those rare moments in time.  I had the privilege of witnessing two very determined, weather-worn and humble men, accompanied by their faithful Greenland Husky, finish a journey of a lifetime.  After four-and-a-half months on skis (and occasionally on foot), and still smiling, this traveling trio completed a 2,500+ km (1,555 mile) expedition, trekking the length of Norway, from Lindesnes to the North Cape.

Håkon and Andy (photos taken by Håkon and Henrik -used with permission)

You could say Henrik Teigøyen and Håkon Johan Brandvold’s journey has been a lifetime in the making.  These twenty-seven year olds have known each other since preschool, growing up in the same small town of Vinstra in Gudbrandsdal, Norway.

They’ve always been avid outdoorsmen, and as the years passed, hiking and skiing trips increased in distance and difficulty.  The idea of trekking the length of Norway became a topic of conversation when they were teenagers.  Even when they moved away from their hometown to pursue college degrees, Henrik in Librarianship and Håkon in Geology, their common desire to make the trip wasn’t forgotten.

In May of last year, Håkon and Henrik took the most difficult and critical step of the entire trip:  They decided to “Just do it.”  Or in their words, “Det passer aldri bra, derfor gjør vi det nå” – “The timing will never fit, therefore we’re doing it now.”  They both agree that when they made that decision, the rest of the preparations for the journey fell into place.

They started saving money, gathering the equipment they already had acquired, as well as  searching for good deals on finn.no (similar to craigslist or ebay).  The local community and an outdoor sporting equipment company, Bergans of Norway, also helped sponsor the trip.

Their travel blog and expedition are titled Tre langs Norge – ved to av dem (Three in Norway (by two of them).  Håkon and Henrik have a connection to a book with the same name.  In 1882, a humorous travelogue was published, written by two of three Englishmen who had come to Norway to hunt and fish for a summer – much of it taking place near Vindstra.  The title was the perfect fit for this traveling trio – Håkon, Henrik and Andy.

On January 1, 2012, they set course towards the North Cape.  I asked whether or not they got on each other’s nerves while living under such close living conditions.  I was surprised and once again, impressed by their positive attitude.  “No, we got along.  In fact, at the end of each day we shook one another’s hand and said ‘Thanks for the hike today.’.”

Their deep friendship was apparent, as well as their wisdom in preparing for, and carrying out, their four-and-a-half month winter ski trip.  They had clearly set job descriptions, and each day they alternated roles.  One man had the responsibility of waking up first, melting snow on the stove and preparing breakfast and coffee, as well as feeding Andy.  The next day he’d be the happy camper that got to sleep 30 minutes longer and be served coffee and breakfast in his sleeping bag, before stepping out of the tent into -20 C (-4 F) and strong winds.

The division of duties also included one taking the lead and reading the compass and map, while the other one cared for Andy and the heaviest pack.

Both agreed that patience was one of the most important qualities to hold onto during such a long trip.  Unexpected situations put their patience to the test, such as equipment breaking, a dense fog or storm blowing in and hindering visibility, and rapidly melting snow that resulted in the final 250 km being completed in tennis shoes.

They learned to press their limits and travel longer distances in a day.  Henrik said, “Tweny kilometers was a lot longer before this trip than it is now.”

On May 20th the three of them reached their goal.  Not without one last unexpected event.  Wind gust between 20-25 mps (45-55 mph) were whipping across the Nordkapp plateau as they walked the final stretch.

Since I met these three Nordkapp travelers, almost three weeks ago, I’ve thought of them many times.  I was impacted by their humility and deep friendship and am grateful they allowed me to be present as they accomplished a journey of a lifetime.

It was a profound moment being present as Henrik and Håkon reflected over their 2,550 km expedition coming to an end.  A rare mix of emotions – from elation to let-down.  It’s a day I won’t soon forget.  And with that being said, here are some photos from the last leg of their journey.  Thank you, Henrik, Håkon and Andy!  It has an honor to join you on the last day of your journey.

Henrik Teigøyen

Henrik Teigøyen and Håkon Johan Brandvold

Andy